Some have said, “Silence is my music” (RS Jacobs). I would like to say that nature is my music. The other day, I sat at the park reading and taking notes from the book Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv (LC), while my daughter played with friends on the playground and collected leaves and pinecones. The breeze made a soft sound as it blew wisps of my hair across my face and lifted the edges of my notebook paper. A crow sat on a nearby tree, welcoming me to my outside office. Squirrels chattered and scurried about gathering acorns. A red-crested woodpecker came a-knockin’ on the the office “door.” Being out in nature has a way of decreasing stress. Why else would people produce and sell nature sounds cds?
In my post, Back to Nature—part 1, I shared Richard Louv’s statement about a new phenomena he titled “nature-deficit disorder.” He does not use this term to suggest or represent any kind of official medical diagnosis. Rather, he says, “Nature-deficit disorder describes the human costs of alienation from nature, among them: diminished use of the senses, attention difficulties, and higher rates of physical and emotional illnesses.” Additionally he says that we have to consider carefully the consequences of the disorder so that we “become more aware of how blessed our children can be—biologically, cognitively, and spiritually—through positive physical connection to nature” (p. 36 LC).
For many years, research has shown the benefits of pet and plant therapy for the elderly, children, and the infirm. Louv also points out research that has shown that a person’s blood pressure can be lowered just by “watching fish in an aquarium” (p. 45 LC). I suppose that is why so many dentist and doctor offices have aquariums in them nowadays.
Once, while living in a third world Central Asian country, I visited friends in a Mediterranean country. My friend’s home had a huge window in the dining room that looked out into a lovely garden with trees and flowers. The view relaxed and renewed me. It also inspired me to buy artificial plants and flowers to take back to my apartment. I also purchased some live plants upon returning. A decade later after living in the desert for over five years, I visited friends in Germany. One wall in their living room was almost all a window to their backyard: a lush, green yard that backed up to a creek and a forest. Again, I realized the medicinal effects of nature. Louv shares that “Cornell University environmental psychologists report in 2003 that a room with a view of nature can help protect children against stress, and that nature in or around the home appears to be a significant factor in protecting the psychological well-being of children in rural areas.” He goes on to emphasize that children in third to fifth grades in rural areas experienced greater results if they had more nature near their homes and less conduct disorders, anxiety, and depression (p. 50 LC). Knowing how nature affected my own psychological well-being shows me that adults and kids alike need nature in their lives.
Study after study shows benefits to all kinds of people. Gardening has proven beneficial to Alzheimer patients and to reduce the risks of dementia in women over 60. Kids today tend to spend more time indoors than outdoors. When I was growing up, we still made mud pies in the summer and igloos in the winter. In Richard Louv’s other book The Nature Principle he pointed out that people in our generation can remember a time when they would “lie in the grass and watch the clouds move” (p. 81 NP). Do your kids ever lie or sit outside and watch clouds and find the rabbits and dragons and other interesting cloud shapes? What are we doing as parents to make sure our kids are inheriting the gifts of exercise and nature? One way that I personally know that we fell short in parenting our sons was by not leading by example regarding time spent outside in nature and time invested in exercise. We took our ten year old daughter on a two mile nature run last weekend. We run three times a week and want to include her at least in one of those times each week. Also in that book, Louv quoted Janet Ady of the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, as she spoke about the benefits of nature and gave this prescription: “Use daily, outdoors in nature. Go on a nature walk, watch birds, and observe trees. Practice respectful behavior in solitude or take with friends and family. Refill: Unlimited. Expires: Never.”
In Back to Nature part 3, we will look at the effects of nature on those with ADHD, as well as something called environment-based education.
Did you miss the earlier articles on this topic?
Or, on Delana’s World, read: